4. Marcus Stroman, 2019
There were few positives for the Blue Jays to take from an Opening Day loss to Jordan Zimmermann and the Detroit Tigers in 2019, but the performance of starting pitcher Marcus Stroman was one of them.
Stroman, making his second career Opening Day start in front of 45,000 fans at Rogers Centre, went seven shutout innings against the Tigers, limiting Miguel Cabrera, Nick Castellanos, and the rest of the Detroit lineup to only two hits. He took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and left the game after throwing 94 pitches.
He had some assistance. Kevin Pillar made a leaping catch in centre field to rob Jordy Mercer of a hit in the third inning. But Stroman also helped his own cause, making a smooth play on a liner back to the mound by Jeimer Candelario to end the fourth. After striking out the side in the fifth inning, Stroman got two outs in the sixth before giving up a single to Castellanos, ending his no-hit bid.
Stroman finished the game with four walks and seven strikeouts. His outing, though, was overshadowed by Zimmermann’s domination of the Blue Jays lineup. Zimmermann would finish the 2019 season 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA, but on Opening Day against the Blue Jays, he was outstanding. He took a perfect game into the seventh inning, retiring the first 20 batters he faced before Teoscar Hernandez reached on an infield single with two outs.
The Tigers ended up winning 2-0 in extra innings thanks to a two-run home run by Christin Stewart off Daniel Hudson in the 10th, sending the Blue Jays to their eighth straight home opener loss in Charlie Montoyo’s first game as Blue Jays manager.
“He was outstanding. He had no room for error and he gave us a chance,” Montoyo said about his starter after the game. “That’s all you can ask for a pitcher. He was very good.”
Stroman kept it up for the next three months. By the All-Star break, he was eighth in the American League with a 3.18 ERA and earned his first All-Star Game selection. But the problems that plagued him on Opening Day persisted: the Blue Jays couldn’t hit. The club’s .232 average was tied for last in the AL, and Stroman was only 5-9. On July 28, with the Blue Jays 40-66 and 27 games out of first place, Stroman was traded to the New York Mets for Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson.